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Hurricane Katrina Confronts Imperialism

by Gary Sudborough Monday, Sep. 05, 2005 at 2:35 PM

Some thoughts about the catastrophe in New Orleans

Creating and maintaining a vast economic and military empire creates many problems for imperialists. Conversely, it greatly increases the wealth of an exceedingly small group of capitalists and it is therefore pursued vigorously, regardless of the long-term consequences. Hurricane Katrina is one of those consequences. It is a case of the laws of physics running counter to the profit designs of the oil companies. When winds blow over water that is much warmer than usual, the result is much more energy being absorbed by the air and therefore, much stronger storms and worse damage once landfall is made. From the melting of the glaciers near the poles to the rise of sea levels, there can be no doubt about the existence of global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

By manipulating refinery capacity the oil companies are making record profits at the present time and exploiting American consumers at the gas pump. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the result of their desire to control the oil supply of the whole world and gain even greater wealth. George W. Bush and practically his whole administration come from the oil industry. It should be rather intuitive that the priorities of his administration would coincide closely with those of the large oil companies. The oil companies, the Bush administration and their friends in the corporate media would prefer that no mention of global warming be made in relation to hurricanes like Katrina. Notice how many times news anchors have mentioned global warming in relation to the catastrophe in New Orleans. The oil companies and the Bush administration are caught in a contradiction. They want to deny the existence of global warming, but the oil companies must live with the damage to their oil rigs and refineries. I have a distinct feeling that a lot of government aid will be going to them, rather than to the poor people of New Orleans.

If US soldiers must die and be maimed for life in Iraq, the planet poisoned with radioactive uranium munitions and the poor black people of New Orleans inundated with water and deprived of food and drinking water, so be it as long as the profit margins of the oil companies continue to rise. Imperialists have never been concerned about the common people. They decimated the populations of the Native Americans, the Africans and the Asians, and they aren't at all concerned about poor people in their own countries. They always figure there will be some garden spot in the world to which they can escape with their blood money. Of course, they have to be concerned about the destruction of oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the loss of ports like New Orleans. In this sense, Katrina confronts imperialism with undesirable consequences. Katrina's destruction is a financial disaster for other capitalists like those in the insurance industry. It is also a public relations nightmare because at least some of the reality of the tremendous human suffering in New Orleans must be conveyed to the American people by the corporate media, whereas they can hide much of misery in Iraq. They aren't compelled to show wounded Iraqi children or the suffering in bombed-out cities like Fallujah.

I was greatly angered, but not surprised, that the corporate media were up to their old tricks of reversing victim and victimizer in their coverage of the hurricane's aftermath. In Iraq they demonize the resistance fighters, call them terrorists and relate all sorts of stories of their brutality. They glorify American soldiers and say they are bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq. In this way they reverse victim and victimizer, occupier and occupied. In their coverage of the disaster in New Orleans they started calling poor black people "looters." In a situation like New Orleans people must loot the necessities of life in order to survive. There are no cashiers in waist-deep, polluted water to receive one's money and one can't swim to the nearest submerged ATM machine to withdraw some waterlogged money. Initially, George W. Bush was so unconcerned with the plight of these people that the day after the hurricane struck, he was in San Diego giving a speech to military personnel about the similarities of the Iraq war to World War 2. What a laugh! The glaring similarity I see is that both Nazi Germany and the United States used lies as justifications to invade other countries. The people of New Orleans were simply abandoned to their own devices and the corporate media designated them as looters, rapists and snipers. It is symptomatic of a capitalist society that they should value property, even property that will be written off as a total loss by the owner, more than they value human life.

I am certain that some people in the Moslem world consider this hurricane as divine retribution for all the war crimes the United States has committed in Iraq. Needless to say, I don't share this opinion. The poor black people of New Orleans and the Iraqi people are both victims of US imperialism. The ancestors of African Americans were brought to the US as slaves and since emancipation their descendants have suffered from discrimination, extremely low wages, massive unemployment and police repression. All the helicopters and National Guard troops presently in Iraq could better be employed rescuing and providing aid to the people of New Orleans. The hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on inflicting misery and tragedy on the Iraqi people could have easily repaired the levees in New Orleans and the decaying infrastructure of much of the rest of the United States. To illustrate the priorities involved here, one of the more recent supplemental military expenditures for the Iraq war was around 80 billion dollars. Congress has authorized only 10 billion dollars for rebuilding New Orleans. Evidently, the American people must come up with the rest through contributions to the Red Cross or "faith-based" charities. Oh yes, I am sure Pat Robertson's charity will do wonders in persuading people to patiently endure their sufferings because the end times and heaven are coming. Privatization will not work. Only the Federal Government has the resources and organization to handle a catastrophe of this magnitude.

I am being asked to pay three times at least for the greed of the oil companies: the cost of the Iraq war, the high price of gasoline and now the rebuilding of New Orleans. End the horrible nightmare in Iraq and use that money to rebuild the city of New Orleans. Nationalize the oil companies and end their price gouging and their opposition to the recognition of global warming. Put the scientists of this country to work on alternatives to fossil fuels and sign the Kyoto agreement limiting greenhouse gases. These are reasonable alternatives. Otherwise, the American people will be paying again and again in private donations as even stronger hurricanes strike this country.

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